I Want to Break Free – A Posthumous Analysis

freddiewinkWhen I was a boy – and by that I mean a younger version of myself.

I don’t mean to imply that I’ve ever identified otherwise…

I was a massive Queen fan – and by that I mean I really enjoyed the music of Queen, I wasn’t the overweight monarchist I was in my early thirties…

In fact I was unhealthily underweight… but that’s not the point.

As a preteen Yorkshire-boy I enjoyed the works of Queen more than any other artist (except maybe Kate Bush or Adam Ant but nobody can really choose a single favourite can they?)

Too young to really understand the politics of sexuality that were breaking into popular culture and too young to appreciate some of the other wonders of my parents record collection, I would listen (much as I do now) to the same tracks over and over and over again.

Now that I’ve passed my 4th full decade on this plane, I realise I don’t listen to Queen nearly so much… hell, I don’t listen to them at all unless they pop up on the radio or a movie or television soundtrack.

But why?

I still enjoy their music; I still respect the lyrics and I still find relevance in their songs… I just don’t listen to them any more.

queen_news_of_the_worldI can cheer a dour or humourless day by singing along to King’s of the Wild Frontier or This Woman’s Work but hardly ever consider News of the World, with it’s thought provoking and melancholy murderous mecha-cover.

I don’t even own any of their albums (outside of A Kind of Magic – which I’m listening to as I type this – and their 3rd greatest hits album)… which is a crying shame considering the joy that Queen brought me in my youth.

With that as a backdrop and the scene set, I would like to narrate thoughts that arose following a brief workplace discussion regarding one of Queen’s actual “greatest” hits – “I Want to Break Free“…

A week ago, one of my web developers took it upon themselves to tidy our corner of the open plan office; the usual cleaner was off sick and this chap enjoys a tidy environment.

As my colleague set about looking for the office vacuum cleaner, another colleague remarked upon the how good the cleanliness-obsessed colleague would look dressed as Freddie Mercury in the music video of the song in question.

Our tidy-colleague (at the tender age of 21 and not being a fan of western music) had not heard the song… cue the whole team trying to explain the song, the video and their own interpretation of the song’s meaning.

It is well known that the video is influenced by the allegedly popular mancunian soap opera, Coronation Street, but the lyrics belie a potentially darker meaning.

The music video implies a need to break away from the tedium of domestic drudgery but the song itself appears to detail the death of a relationship and the potential rebirth of a new sexual adventure.

As colleagues argued that video was a possible allegory for domestic abuse, my own thoughts were drawn to the demonisation of Freddie’s sexuality in the press.

Granted, Freddie’s homosexuality was not the village-bell that it became more and more hammered in the months preceding his death but it was something of a stigma that he carried and it must have influenced his music, even then.

In the retrospective light of 2016, the song seems to me to be a heartfelt musing over the dichotomy faced by the lovers of the 1980s gay scene… Freddie, the protagonist of our song, falls in love with the love his life but at the same time feels trapped and yearns for the freedom offered by a promiscuous lifestyle or polyamorous relationship.

But then, having contemplated moving on and away from his love, our protagonist contemplates a reality without any love and so settles for what he has… still yearning for to break away to grass that appears greener and yet seems so barren at the same time.

Quite a sad song really.

Freddie died 25 years ago; in my memory his death became a media circus and a baton beaten in the war against AIDS; I often wonder what the world would be like had Freddie not died.

25 years on and the world is a very different place.

Wider societies opinions on sexuality and gender have progressed for the most part and the music industry has undergone numerous revolutions.

I’d like to think that Freddie would still be recording now, if not alone, in collaboration with his peers and the younger generation.

divinetrioCan you imagine the frenzy surrounding a boy-band collaboration between Freddie, Bowie and Jagger in the 21st century? Throw in Elton John and I think you would probably be able to call it a day – no need for any further pop music shenanigans…

Or maybe Freddie Mercury and Justin Timberlake?

Erm… I think I need the bathroom… Nurse?

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Investigating Lindley Church Amateur Operatic Society

Lindley AmateursOver the past month or so I have been setting up a WordPress blog to report on the doings of my local Amateur Operatic Society.

My partner is a member of their committee and is soon to play the part of Emily Pankhurst (Emmiline Pankurst in the musical) in their forthcoming performance of Below Stairs.

It has been tricky a there isn’t much of a written history, although I suspect there is a lot more than I have found so far.

I will probably end up joining the society as a fully paid up member, which will be useful for gaining more details… I already attend most of the dinners, functions and shows after all.

The upshot of my findings so far is that the Lindley Church Amateur Operatic Society was founded in principle in 1934 and in name in 1935, after its first performance of an operatta titled Irish Girl.

There does seem to be evidence of an older society not affiliated with the Church itself but only in the shape of the show poster that you can see at the top right of this post.

If you want to read more of my findings then you can read Raising the Rafters – In the Beginning.

Easy Day – Bananafishbones (Profanity in Music)

Bananafishbones Easy DayWarning – Post Contains Profanity

I recently posted about the use of profanity in music.

I expressed the desire to write about some of my favourite “profane” tracks.

These  are tracks that contain profane lyrical content either in language or description.

These  are also tracks that have had or continue to have a profound emotional impact on me.

I don’t think I have ever written about it but I am a big fan of foreign cinema.  Primarily movies from France, Spain or Germany but my movie library contains items from Hong Kong, Korea and Japan as well as English speaking points of origin such as Australia.

Years ago (over a decade ago) I had the good fortune to stumble across Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt in its native tongue).

Run Lola Run

Whilst the film pre-dates The Butterfly Effect by six years, it does seem to be a German cross between Groundhog Day, The Butterfly Effect and Trainspotting – it stars the beautiful Franka Potente alongside the fine German actor, Moritz Bleibtreu.

If you haven’t seen it, you really should… don’t let a poor grasp of the German language put you off, there are dubbed versions.

Franka (sometimes Franke) Potente is no stranger to our screens; notable recent English language movies are Creep and The Bourne Identity.

Whilst searching for other films that the multilingual Franka starred in, I came across reference to a short movie titled Easy Day.  I couldn’t find the short anywhere, nobody wanted to sell me it and the torrent network of the time hadn’t heard of it…

… although it did produce a music video of the same name, starring Franke Potente.

Easy Day by the awesome German band, Bananafishbones, does not make use of Franka’s vocal talents on either the album it is taken from (Viva Computa) or the radio edit.

The music video, seemingly based around the short movie of the same name, is not listed on YouTube and I have struggled to source a version in as good a quality as I first saw it.

Instead I have settled for the only result my GoogleFu brings me to: This MySpace video.

Viva computaWhen I discovered this track I was dumbstruck.

More so when I listened to the track on the album itself, sans Potente.

Lyrically the track strikes me as post-apocalyptic or at least coloured by the ecological decline of the planet; both are themes that the music video chooses to ignore.

I can forgive the music video, and not just because Franke’s vocal enhancements make for a pleasant alternative to the album track.

The video is paired with the short movie with all its Wrong Turn and Deliverance promises.

The reason I include this track in my Profanity in Music list is entirely down to one sequence.

“What fuck above do I have to thank that I ‘m here to live in this shit“.

The rest of the song is profanity free and relatively upbeat.

The song appeals to me on a number of levels.

Firstly, it has a happy beat and tempo that contrasts the lead vocalist’s voice.  He’s like a cross between David Bowie and Lex Luther.

Secondly, the song has a sense of repressed rage to it.

Rage is a part of my life I haven’t really written about yet but I intend to.  The late radio DJ John Peel once said that he never really understood rage until he became diabetic – a statement I can fully appreciate.

There are points where I imagine the vocalist spitting out the lyrics with venom.

Every day
I get up,
Put my black plastic security suit on;
My gasmask,
Leave the cellar and go to work.
Afraid to be poisoned
or trampelled,
By this huge machinery
And I think to myself
 
What fuck above
Do Ihave to thank
That I’m here to live
In this shit I don’t
Wanna complain about
The acid rain ’cause it’s
Nice compared to this
Poison Air
And I wish
I could just
Once see the moon
Or one gorgeous show
 
So I take it off
Yeah that’s feeling good
Though I’m deeply sick
Right away
 
It’s like dancing in the sun
Having trouble
Having fun
Having anything you wish to come
Then it suddenly smiles your way
And you have an easy day
 
It’s time to have an easy day
It’s time to have an easy day
It’s time to have an easy day
It’s time to have an easy day
It’s time to have an easy day
It’s time to have an easy
 
What the hell?
This must be an antique supermarket
What am I doing here?
God, these people drinking milk
But the clothes they wear look rather cool to me
And I wear the same
What am I doing here?
 
Excuse me, Sir, can you help me out?
I wanna bake a cake but I don’t know how.
No, I don’t but I’m sure I will
So what do we need
For your bakery?
 
It’s like dancing in the sun
Having trouble having fun
Having anything you wish to come then it suddenly smiles your way
And you have an easy day
 
It’s like, it’s like, it’s like
 
It’s like dancing in the sun
Having trouble having fun
Having anything you wish to come then it suddenly smiles your way
And you have an easy day
 
It’s time to have an easy day
It’s time to have an easy day
It’s time to have an easy day
It’s time to have an easy day
It’s time to have an easy day
It’s time to have an easy day
It’s time to have an easy day-ay-ay-ay
easy day-ay-ay-ay
easy day-ay-ay-ay
easy day-ay-ay-ay
easy day-ay-ay-ay
easy day-ay-ay-ay
easy day…
Finally, the relevance of the profanity itself.  A world weary worker voicing his wrath to an unknown creator with vengeful cynicism.  No doubt ignorant to the possibility that such indifference and lack of deference to the Divine is what is likely cursing him to the claustrophobic hell his life has become.

Or maybe I’m reading too much into it…

So what is it I see in the song?

The song could be interpreted in a number of ways and the music video has some subtle points that further deepen the potential meanings.

The video starts off following a similar theme to that of the short movie Easy Day.

The synopsis for the short movie has a couple out for a drive/walk bump into a weirdo and move on to avoid him but are confronted by him later on.

In the music video the same seems to be happening at the beginning but our Lex Luther looking vocalist, taking the role of the weirdo, seems to fantasize Franka Potente in his car.  Towards the end of the video, he is interacting with her whilst the rest of the band (his fellow hillbillies) don’t see her.

Whilst the song itself is sung from the point of view of someone trapped in a daily routine, imprisoned not only by the protective suit/mask they wear but also the routine they are trapped within.

Looking  to blame someone for the predicament, the singer is claustrophobic and frustrated; they remove their mask to take in the glory of the moon, only to feel sick immediately.

The initial implication is radiation sickness, although this could equally be agoraphobia.  The sudden exposure to an unblinkered reality.

This interpretation is further reinforced by the next verse, wherein the singer realises he is surrounded by uniformed workers in a supermarket.  He too is wearing a unifom and is approached by a consumer requesting advice.

The implication here is clear.  An individual, driven inside themselves by the mind-numbing tedium of their day-to-day life awakes to an epiphany – zen like in its simplicity.  He doesn’t need to be trapped within the self imposed shackles of the rat race and instead enjoys the experiences of the day – helping the consumer out of a desire for adventure rather than the pressure to conform.

Erm… or maybe I am reading too much into it.

I like the track none-the-less.

The Use of Profanity in Music

Parental AdvisoryA warning to the furious…

This post is about the use of profanity in music.

It is likely to use words that some people may find offensive; such offence is not intentional, albeit such offence is possible considering the potential demographic of my readership.

If you find the use of profanity offensive or even just distasteful, you may want to skip this post.  There are plenty of other posts that I have written without the use of profanity but this isn’t one of them.

Still here?

Good!

Hopefully, like me, you aren’t turned off by so called “bad” language.

Some people say that the use of profanity, in conversation, is a sign of a poor education or an unimaginative mind – these people have obviously not encountered some of the profanity that I have.  In my opinion, profanity can be an artform; not least the use of profanity itself.

From the choice of profanity to the timing and delivery, there is a lot of skill to the proper use of profanity.  Waiting to the count of three or four before appending the word “cock” or even “cunt” to a final statement is the verbal equivalent of delivering the killing blow to an argument – or at least teabagging an already defeated opponent.

I appreciate that some people don’t want to hear profanity and I am careful to curb my language around children but I have to admit, I can and do make use of profanity in day to day speech an awful lot.

I was going to title this Top X Uses of Profanity in Popular Music but I realised that I am discovering new profane tracks all the time and that my musical taste isn’t necessarily what you would class as “popular”.

There are a number of topics on the internet dealing with this subject and even groups supporting people who are against it.

As I’ve mentioned a few times before, music is important to me.  Equally as important to me, for a variety of different reasons, is freedom of speech.

I remember being introduced to the concept of music censorship through the introduction of the Parental Advisory stickers in the eighties.

It was almost a decade later, when access to the internet broadened all of our horizons, that I discovered censorship had gone much further than adhering black and white stickers to obscure an album’s artwork.

I remember listening to an old favourite album, So Far So Good So What by Megadeth, in particular Hook In Mouth (2004 Digital Remaster). The track had this enigmatic lyric, repeated throughout:

F is for Fighting,
R is for Red, ancestor’s blood in battle’s they shed,
E we elect them,
E we Eject them, in the land of the free and the home of the brave,
D for your dying,
O your overture,
M is for Money, you know what that cures;
This spells out FREEDOM,
it means nothing to me,
as long as there’s a P.M.R.C.

That last M was also sung as “M they will cover your grave with manure” earlier in the song but I prefer the second, less scatological, rendition. Now I love a good acrostic or acronym as much as the next person but for years I was baffled as to what the song meant by the phrase “as long as there’s a P.M.R.C.”.

Access to the internet taught me that the P.M.R.C. was the Parents Music Research Centre.  These were the douches that instigated the practice of ruining awesome album artwork with those tedious black and white stickers!

The "Filthy Fifteen"

Wikipedia cites this as the so called "Filthy Fifteen", originally demonised by the PMRC

These members of America’s political right claimed to be “frightened” by the graphical violent and sexual content they perceived in some of the music of the day.

When the debate eventually hit the courts the P.M.R.C. cited a handful of albums whose lyrical content they interpreted as having an inappropriate content.

Whilst a number of the musicians of the day defended the proposal, using a defence along the lines of “Beauty” or in this case “Profanity is in the Eye of the Beholder”, the P.M.R.C. won out and we have those little black and white warnings on albums to this day.

I guess this explains why Tipper Gore gets the abuse she does in so many tracks through the eighties and nineties.

What surprises me though, is the lack of parental advisory labels on just any old profane track.

Maybe I am listening to music that predates the labelling motion but I’m fairly sure that some of my favourite instances of profanity in music are not labelled.  Maybe the track has to be made up of truly diabolical content to be labelled.

Certainly the label seems to be mainly awarded mainly to hip-hop, rap and death metal these days.

Ghost in the MachineThe track that jumps to mind predominantly is, Rehumanize Yourself by The Police (from Ghost In The Machine).  As a minor I never noticed the word but as an adult the profanity leapt out at me:

Billy’s joined the National Front,

He Always was a little runt,

Got his hands in the air with the other cunts,

You gotta humanize yourself…

Now to my mind this is a perfectly acceptable use of the “C” word.  It certainly wasn’t hidden from me in my youth, although I’ll accept that I had a good enough upbringing to not notice the word in common day parlance – let alone the works of one of the world’s greatest musical institutions.

This isn’t the only Police track to contain the “C” word and to be fair, I haven’t picked up on any of the other classic musical profanities.

Over the next week or so, I would like to list some of my favourite “profane” tracks.  I may do so in one large post or I may break it up into smaller single posts.

Honestly, I have an almost childish appreciation of profanity; that being said, many of these tracks stand on their own merit – both lyrically and musically.

Dr Dee – An English Opera

Dr Dree An English OperaOnly recently, I learnt that Damon Albarn had been working on a piece of theatre based on the life and works of the great Dr John Dee.

Today I had the pleasure of seeing the production.

Aptly named, Dr Dee – An English Opera is moving, patriotic and lively.  Using a wide range of instruments and theatrical style, Damon Albarn has been quoted as referring to this work as a “Folk Opera”.

MonkeyThree years ago I was lucky enough to see the Operatic rendition of Journey to the West (one of the most influential stories in my life – I highly recommend reading an English translation of the original Chinese classic Journey to the West).

Albarn’s compositions for Monkey were superb and so I knew in advance that I would enjoy his latest operatic offering.

John DeeEqually enticing to me is the subject matter: Dr. John Dee, a man without whom we would probably not have the understanding of Enochian magic that we have today.

(For more on Dee’s take on angelic communication, as detailed in the Book of Enoch, try Enochian Vision Magick: An Introduction and Practical Guide to the Magick of Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley).

I’m not saying I am a fan of Dee’s magical work; from what I’ve learned previously, he was a little naive in the amount of trust he placed in his less than scrupulous sidekick, Edward Kelley.

Dee's GlyphThis important aspect to Dee’s life is not overlooked in this work. I was mesmerised during scenes of Kelley and Dee channelling spirits.

Albarn is not let down by co-creator, director Rufus Norris.

The stage work is superb from such a small company of players. Bertie Carvel gives Dee a level of passion and drive worthy of the physician-astrologer’s alleged obsessions.

Dee’s presence on stage is only overshadowed by the awesome figure of Francis Walsingham, great grandfather of military intelligence. Walsingham is lent overpowering form by the baritone, Steven Page, whose booming voice and looming stature gripped me throughout his performances.

Dee’s wife is bravely portrayed by Victoria Couper, also noticeable in other roles along with the rest of the company.

Albarn and SingerAlbarn adds to the performance throughout; singing us through the story of Dee’s life in his trademark melancholic style. Damon is also seen to conduct a team of instrumentalists all housed separate from the main action on stage.

Along with these incredible performances, there is great use of screen projection to add to everything happening on stage.

Dr DeeFrom the new world being sucked into Queen Elizabeth to the conversion of stage action to static woodcuts, the projections were far more subtle than those used in Journey to the West.

The show is on at the Palace Theatre in Manchester until July 9th 2011. The programme says it will continue again in London, June 25th 2012 when the show opens at the Coliseum as a part of the London 2012 Festival.

The Hounds of Tindalos

The Transition of Titus CrowI’ve long been a devotee of the Cthulhu Mythos; in fact a number of unfinished posts for this blog have been Mythos themed.

This January just gone I have had something of a Mythos renaissance.  I finally regained use of a multi-region DVD player and had some success in tracking down a number of US release only Mythos DVDs.

Even better, I’ve read through Brian Lumley‘s Primal Lands and Mythos sequences, back to back.

I love Lumley’s take on the Mythos.  General Mythos stories tend to have the protagonist left gibbering, driven to insanity by the unspeakable horrors they have witnessed.

Whilst this does still happen in Lumley’s tales, there are heroes to stand up to the oneiric machinations of Cthulhu and his kin.

Hound of TindalosIt was during this last series that I was reminded of the Hounds of Tindalos,  temporal vampires that leech into our world through acute angles.

In Lumley’s Mythos sequence, these fluttering hunters of the fourth dimension plague Lumley’s heroes, literally hounding them through time.

I remember the feeling of sheer desperation the first time I read The Transition of Titus Crow, as the hounds push Titus Crow from one well thought out trap to another.

Later in the series, Crow’s friend, Henri-Laurent de Marigny, is likewise hounded but deals with them in true Lumley hero style.

The Hounds of TindalosThe Hounds of Tindalos were first introduced to the Mythos by Frank Belknap Long in his short story of the same name.

The tale is a favourite of mine; ahead of its time with regards the combination of occult thought and methodologies to scientific theory and practice.

The musings of Long’s ill fated Chalmers at the story’s opening, echo my own opinion on scientific thought.  In fact the Chalmers character reminds me somewhat of 1930s Peter J Carroll.  Of course Carroll would likely deal with the Tind’losi Hounds in a manner that any Lumley hero would be proud.

Whilst musing over the Hounds of Tindalos, and the feeling that their initial pursuit of Titus Crow left me with I was reminded of a similar feeling of relentless pursuit that I encountered in my youth.

Hounds of LoveYears before first reading anything remotely Lovecraftian, I remember feeling that same sense of desperation from Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love.

Released in 1985, (I think), I would have probably encountered the song a couple of years later, on a VHS version of The Whole Story.

The pursuit of Kate and her lover, in the video, fits well with the theme of the song.

Although, I’m fairly sure that Kate’s intention was more to show the inevitability of the eventual submission to love’s pursuit in the heart of a romantic (or at least that’s what the song means to me, when I’m not likening it to the futile evasion of some dark eldritch horror).

It’s in the trees… It’s coming!

I think the opening line is taken from Night of the Demon, in turn based on MR James’ Casting the Runes.

Synchronous that the two sources of such a powerful sensation of unending pursuit share such a similar name.  So much so that I had to google to check if there had been some kind of Kate Bush Hounds of Tindalos/Hounds of Love parody; sadly nothing more than this hounds of history link.

And so in lieu of a version that is to hand and with deference to the wonderful Kate Bush and the works of Lumley and Long; I have attempted to create my own Tind’losi version of the song.

The Hounds of Tindalos (To Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love)

“They’re In My Dreams!
They’re Coming!”

When I Was Asleep:
Dreaming Strange Dreams,
Afraid Of What Might Be

Dreaming In The Dark,
Hiding In The Dream,
And Of What Was Following Me…

The Hounds Of Tindalos See Me.
Have I Always Been A Coward,
And I Don’t Know Where to Go From Here.

Here I Go!
They’re Coming For Me Through My Dreams.
Help Me, Someone!
Help Me, Please!

Take The Corners,
And Mould Them Into Curves,
And I’ll Be,
Safe For The Moment.

They’re Forming Cracks,
Led By Dholes.
I Try To Smooth Them With My Hands.

My Fragile Heart,
It Beats So Fast,
And I’m Ashamed Of Running Away.

From Nothing Real?
I Just Can’t Deal With This,
But I’m Still Afraid To Be There,

Among The Hounds Of Tindalos,
And Feel Their Presence Reach For Me.
Have I Always Been A Coward,
And Now I Know It’s Too Late For Me.

Oh, Here I Go!
Don’t Let Me Go!
Hold Me Down!
They’re Coming For Me Through My Dreams.
Help Me, Darling,
Help Me, Please!

Take The Corners,
And Mould Them Into Curves,
And I’ll Be,
Safe For The Moment.

I Know It’s Too Late For Me.
I Know It’s Too Late For Me.
I Hear The Hounds Of Tindalos, Yeah!
Tind’losi Hounds!

Take The Corners,
And Mould Them Into Curves!

Do You Know What I Really Hear?
Do You Know What I Really Hear?
I Hear The Hounds Of Tindalos, Yeah!

A Moment of Clarity

ClarityEarlier this week I received an event invite from a band that I follow on facebook.

Actually, that is a somewhat misguiding statement.  I’ve followed Kava Kava far longer than I’ve been on facebook.  The last time I made reference to Kava Kava in this blog was when they hit number one in my Top 10 Workout Tracks.

I’m jingoistic enough that many would think that my main attraction to Kava Kava is that they are from Huddersfield; available through Chocolate Fireguard Music Ltd.  In this case, I don’t think their origins have any bearing on my like for the band; other than causing my early exposure to them.

Most people are probably becoming aware of their music now, through their inclusion in television and video game soundtracks.  They have a very unique sound that fits most situations.

The invite on facebook was to the online launch of their latest single, Clarity.  Officially released December 13th 2010, the single is available for advance purchase from bandcamp, for £4.

Being something of a fan-boy I bought the single before release day and I’m really glad I did.  No less uplifting than any other Kava Kava track, the remixes that are bundled with it embellish what is already a very worthy piece.  Of particular interest is the Lex Loofah remix, it has some really subtle undertones which I find hard to describe without sounding even more pretentious than I already do.